November 22nd, 2006 10:26 EST
Activists Worry About Darfur Violence Spreading Through Region
Washington – The violence in Darfur, Sudan, is spreading to neighboring countries – Chad and the Central African Republic – according to award-winning actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow.
"The violence and devastation that is now defining Darfur has reached well across the border. In fact, the border is nonexistent," Farrow said at a press briefing in Washington November 21.
Farrow and David Rubenstein, the executive director of the Save Darfur Coalition, returned November 20 from Chad. There, they met with people in hospitals, displaced persons camps and those from looted and burned villages. They videotaped people's stories to show them in the United States.
Those who fled Darfur thought they would be safe in Chad, Rubenstein said. But in fact, incidents of torture, rape and burning of villages now also are occurring in Chad.
Farrow visited Darfur in 2004 and again in June 2006. The people she met in Chad had spent days on foot fleeing Darfur but found their attackers followed them into Eastern Chad, she said. "There is no safety for them now," Farrow added.
The only solution, Farrow said, is for a United Nations-backed peacekeeping force to be deployed to Darfur, Chad and the Central African Republic. "The people deserve protection," she said.
The coalition hopes that a peacekeeping plan agreed to by international leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 16 will work. However, it is concerned because the Sudanese government has yet to accept the plan in its entirety.
The plan calls for an expanded peacekeeping force of 20,000, jointly run by the United Nations and African Union. (See related article.)
The peacekeeping force must be credible, effective and able to protect those who have fled Darfur, said former U.S. Ambassador Lawrence Rossin, who recently returned from a trip to Europe and Africa to meet with leaders about the situation. The force must be large and easily mobile in what is a huge territory, Rossin said. The peacekeeping force also must be fully funded, have a strong unified command and be focused on civilian protection, Rossin said.
Rossin also encouraged Americans to be vocal about their concerns about Darfur and its neighboring regions. Pressure from citizens shapes priorities of policymakers, Rossin said.
The coalition representatives could not obtain visas to visit Darfur – a problem many humanitarian workers and media are facing because of government restrictions.
The Save Darfur Coalition is an alliance of more than 175 faith-based, advocacy and humanitarian organizations working to help the people of Darfur.
U.S. ORGANIZATIONS DRAWING ATTENTION TO DARFUR
Many organizations across the United States are hosting events designed to encourage Americans to do what they can to help end the violence in Darfur. Many groups are holding fundraisers or hosting lectures to inform people about the crisis.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington is bringing attention to the crisis by projecting wall-sized images from Darfur on the outside of its building at night from November 20-26.
The images are being displayed to "alert the public to the urgency of stopping the human catastrophe in Darfur," said Fred Zeidman, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council chairman.
The exhibit calls attention in the United States and the world to the suffering of the civilian population in Darfur, said Andrew Natsios, U.S. presidential envoy to Sudan. Natsios spoke at the launch of the exhibit November 20.
The museum wants people to see the pictures so that they can articulate better what the situation in Darfur is like, Omer Ismail, a Darfurian refugee, said at the exhibit launch. What the pictures cannot show, Ismail said, are the lives of people destroyed.
The images are available on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Web site.
Other prominent performers and activists have spoken to U.S. and U.N. leaders about the situation in Darfur. (See related article.)
For more information, see Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)